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Hooksand Antlers: Deer management plan changed

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In the fall of 2011, DEC adopted a five-year Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State. Because that plan required regulation changes, the proposed changes were subject to a 45-day public comment period during the spring of 2012.

After considering several thousand public comments, DEC recently adopted 12 amendments to facilitate implementation of its management plan, and the two most controversial of the 12 changes dealt with a youth hunt for deer and antler restrictions.

Youth Hunt in Limbo

According to this past Wednesday’s New York State Register, DEC established a three-day youth firearms season for deer to occur during Columbus Day weekend in the portions of the Northern and Southern Zones where deer may be taken with a firearm.

This regulation is intended to increase opportunities for junior hunters who will be authorized to take one deer of either sex during the youth season.

As of this writing, though, the Youth Deer Hunt is on hold because downstate Assemblyman Robert Sweeney introduced legislation that included language prohibiting firearm use during the regular archery season.

That legislation passed through appropriate channels and now sits on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk awaiting his signature so the Youth Hunt remains in limbo until the Governor signs or vetoes Bill A10583.

Opponents of the youth season contended that the hunt was not necessary, that firearms presented an increased safety risk for bowhunters and small game hunters who might be in the woods, that the youth hunt would affect bowhunting by altering deer behavior patterns, and that unscrupulous adults might illegally take deer during the youth season.

Despite those objections and because the majority of comments supported a youth hunt over Columbus Day weekend, DEC supported the youth weekend, which they believe is important for recruiting new hunters who will be essential for the future of deer management.

Antler Restrictions

Mandatory Antler Restrictions (ARs) is a contentious issue among deer hunters and other stakeholders across the state.

Because public comment reflected general support for ARs in seven Catskill Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), mandatory ARs will now be in effect for WMUs 3A, 4G, 4O, 4P, 4R, 4S and 4W.

Some public comments suggested that ARs be expanded to individual WMUs, the entire Southern Zone, or statewide; however, DEC does not consider mandatory ARs biologically necessary to maintain a healthy deer population in New York.

At this point, DEC has no plans to expand ARs to other areas, but DEC is working to develop a more systematic and objective process to guide future decisions regarding alternative buck-harvest strategies that may offer more acceptable outcomes for New York deer hunters and stakeholders.

Northern Zone Seasons

DEC has adopted a regulation where the Northern Zone regular season will open for 44 consecutive days beginning on the second Saturday after Columbus Day.

This is a slight change from the original proposal to begin the regular season on the fourth Saturday in October.

Some hunters objected to the fourth Saturday because they believed that would extend the season later in December. Usually by then snow depths might inhibit hunter and deer movement and conditions might make deer more vulnerable to harvest or disturbance in their winter yards.

Another change, intended to expand bowhunting opportunities, allows bowhunting during the late muzzle-loading season in the Northern Zone.

A third change allows for the use of Deer Management Permits during all seasons in the Northern Zone.

Other Changes

Among other amendments to the Deer Management Plan are lengthening bowhunting season in the Southern Zone by changing to a fixed opening date of Oct. 1; adjusting bear hunting seasons to remain concurrent with deer seasons; and establishing a Deer Management Focus Area in central Tompkins County to intensify use of hunting to assist communities in the Ithaca area with the problem of overabundant deer populations.

SLRWA Annual Walleye Challenge

Walleye anglers might want to mark Saturday, Aug. 11 on their calendars as that is the date of the 11th annual St. Lawrence River Walleye Challenge Team Tournament hosted by the St. Lawrence River Walleye Association out of the Massena Intake Boat Launch. Complete details on the tournament will be available in a future column.

CALENDAR

Monday: Lisbon Sportsmen’s Club Hosts Trap and Skeet Shooting at Pray Rd. Property at 5:30 p.m.

Friday-Saturday: 44th Annual Decoy, Wildlife Art, and Sporting Show at Clayton Arena.

Friday-Sunday: 35th Annual Vintage Boat Show at Alex Bay.

Sunday: Sporting Clays Shoot at Black Lake F&G Club at 9 a.m.

Sunday: 3-D Archery Shoot at Racquette Valley F&G Club (Registration from 7-11 a.m.).

July 27-28: Trapper Safety Course at Massena R&G Club (Pre-register at 389-5096).

July 28-29: St. Lawrence County 3rd Annual Trappers Rendezvous at Massena R&G Club (389-5096).

Aug. 4-5: Gun Show and Flea Market at Massena R&G Club, 155 Patterson Road. Massena

Aug. 11: SLRWA 11th Annual St. Lawrence River Walleye Challenge Team Tournament (384-3450).

Aug. 12: Bowhunter Education Course at Ferari’s Archery Shop in Carthage (Pre-register at Shop).

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